In some of my recent research with New York University, business people across the country told me that they most value sincerity and credibility when connecting with others. As real estate professionals, these traits can be particularly important.
Surround the Account
One of the most important ways realtors can build their credibility is to “surround the account.” Take time to network with potential clients in a variety of ways. Think of a combination of ways to influence people. A great way to do this is through community involvement.
Kern Egger, a realtor with Coldwell Banker Pacesetter Steel Realtors in Corpus Christi, TX, has found ways to successfully cash in on this idea. In the past, Egger has given “gratitude celebrations” for past clients at her home and backyard barbeques for her neighborhood. “These types of events have allowed me to establish myself as the area expert in my community,” she said.
Pat Eyre, of Prudential Utah Real Estate in Salt Lake City, UT has also found this type of tactic to be successful. Eyre and other members of the Salt Lake Board of Realtors organize an annual auction to raise money for an event they call Christmas in July. With the money they raise, they prepare gifts for children in a homeless shelter. “Become involved in the business of what you’re doing,” she said. “Make yourself known in the community as a go to person, as a person they can trust not just to be after the paycheck.”
Realtors should always think of themselves as a product. If you were in the “grocery store of life,” why would someone choose you? What are you doing to keep yourself new and improved? How are you repackaging yourself? This can often be accomplished through innovative ways of direct marketing.
Egger often uses unique postcards, letters, brochures, magnets and even billboards to reach potential customers. “These items create continuity and name recognition,” she said. “When clients are ready to purchase a home, they remember the name.”
We should always put in the extra effort and follow up. There’s little excuse with today’s technology. Leave a voice-mail, send an email, or write a note and fax it. What’s important is that your customers know that you make an effort to contact them as soon as possible. Even when you’re out of town or vacation, set up a backup system to assure your customers that service never stops.
Egger uses a journal to keep information on her clients up to date. She has also hired an assistant so she can spend more time in front of the customer. “Whether it’s delivering good news or bad news, it’s part of being credible,” she said. “My clients want to be informed and kept in the loop, so I do what I say I’ll do. My job is more than finding a buyer; it’s getting feedback, writing reports and answering questions.”
It’s essential to handle complaints quickly. Take responsibility for problems, no matter whom or what the cause. If you let the “wound” fester, your competitor might come along with a cure. Let customers know that you are their consultant and helper. It’s like the marriage vow — for better and for worse. Eyre has found a simple way to emulate this with her customers: “This is easy to accomplish just by being kind to people and not always looking at the bottom line,” she said.
Always prove you’re dependable by keeping the promises that you make. Customers love to hear these magic sentences, “I’ll take care of that for you,” “I take full responsibility,” “Consider it done.” This idea is so important that Egger said, “Giving quality service and listening to customers’ needs is the bread and butter of real estate.”
It’s just as important to stay visible in front of your peers as it is to stay visible in front of your clients. One way to do this is to become involved in a professional association such as the Women’s Council of Realtors, or other community groups. Once you make the commitment to join, also commit to making these meetings and functions work for you. Get involved on committees and meet and develop new contacts throughout the year. You can also volunteer to speak at a chapter meeting or offer to do a free seminar.
Eyre has found her 10 year membership in the WCR to be valuable and offers this advice: “Be kind to your fellow agents, because they’re battling the same things you are.”
Egger’s membership in the WCR, her service on the March of Dimes Board and involvement in her church have also helped her build credibility.
As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” We need to remember that what we do everyday, either builds or destroys our credibility. Our attitudes need to be consistent throughout the process, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. When this happens, customers will become your best advocates. When they’re happy and feel cared for, they will spread the word about you and your service. As Egger said, “it has to be part of your spirit. It’s all about the intention that you bring to the work. If your intentions are in the right place, it doesn’t feel like work. The actions speak for themselves.”